Toru Saito

Story Transcripts /
  + 12/7/41 and 9/11/01 : “For the first time I was called a Jap”
+ Being American : “I feel like a foreigner”
+ Fear : “The public was never a safe place”
+ Internment : “I found about 26 marbles”
+ Never Again : “They’re not doing you any favors”
Audio clips on this site require the Apple Quicktime player.
+ Download Apple Quicktime player.
12/7/41 and 9/11/01
“For the first time I was called a Jap”
Listen to Clip

For the first time I was called a Jap. I was playing outside on the street with my brother and somebody called me a Jap and I didn’t know what a Jap was, I didn’t know what it meant. I asked my mother and my mother was ashamed and reluctant to tell me what it meant. She just kind of ignored it, but I knew it wasn’t a complimentary term because it was said with anger and hostility. At first I couldn’t understand what we had done wrong. But we just knew that people were angry at us. We didn’t know why and so we had to protect ourselves from that. So we didn’t feel safe in public anymore.

Being American
“I feel like a foreigner”
Listen to Clip

I feel like a foreigner. And it’s not a good feeling when you know, intellectually, you’re an American. But when you’re not treated like one, then it kind of makes you schizophrenic. It makes you feel crazy. That why don’t the two sides match? It matches for other people, but it doesn’t match for us.

“The public was never a safe place”
Listen to Clip

My mother was in the protection of the house, our apartment. The kids had to go to school. And we were called all these racist names and we were beaten up, my mother didn’t have to go through that as severely as we did. You know, maybe somebody might have called her a Jap in the grocery store, but she didn’t go to the grocery store every day like we had to go to school every day. So in the street you’re more subjected to rock throwing and people spitting on you. You get the gutter treatment so to speak. I’ve always felt helpless, like the cops never helped us. No authority figure ever stepped in and defended us or protected us. So we were always on our own. So the public was never a safe place for me to be. I still don’t feel that way today.

“I found about 26 marbles”
Listen to Clip

Well, I went back to Topaz. It’s been a lifelong desire of mine to go back to see where I spent my childhood. And I found our block. I found building 10. We were in block 4, building 10, apartments C and D. I was standing in front of where our building used to be and the only remains of our building was the framework of our front porch. And I stood in front of the front porch and something told me to dig at the lower right hand corner of our front porch. So I took a stick and I dug down, and about six or eight inches down below the surface, I found about 26 marbles that I had left behind as a kid under the porch. I would hide them there for safe keeping, but in the rush of leaving, we left at 3 o’clock in the morning, so we left, we only brought what we could carry, and we left a lot of things behind and that was one of the things I left behind.

Never Again
“They’re not doing you any favors”
Listen to Clip

To put people behind barbed wire fences, with armed guards, is not part of the Constitution. And if somebody wants to protect us, there’s other ways of doing it and I don’t believe it for a second that they did it because they cared about us. You know, when the government violates your rights, they’re not doing you any favors. People lost their jobs, they lost their fortunes, they lost everything they had. But I know one thing, if it ever happened again to anybody else, any other group, I’ll be out there protesting against it.